Wellesley Junior Helps Local Students Realize College Dreams

June 16, 2010

CONTACT: Arlie Corday
acorday@wellesley.edu; 781-283-3321
or Anna Morris

WELLESLEY, Mass.— Anna Morris heads up a team of 20 coaches with one goal in mind: make education possible for students who otherwise might not make the grade.

Anna Morris (right)
Wellesley's Let's Get Ready program has had great success under the direction of Anna Morris. From left to right, Doug Monteiro, a senior at Framingham High School, Mari Padilla, a junior at Wellesley and program co-director, Lucio Barbalho, a senior at FHS and Anna Morris, a junior and site co-director, work on improving SAT scores.

Click on image for high resolution file.

A junior at Wellesley College from Fuquay Varina, N.C., Morris is a site co-director for the Let's Get Ready program, a nonprofit organization with chapters at about 20 colleges in the Northeast.

On its website, Let’s Get Ready describes its goals as expanding "access to college for motivated, low-income high school students using the mentoring power of college students as role models. In 2009, LGR ran 52 programs throughout the Northeast serving about 2,109 students with the assistance of 850 college volunteers. "

Finishing its third year, Wellesley's chapter of Let's Get Ready focuses on Framingham High School. The program has grown each year.

"This semester was by far the best Let's Get Ready program ever at Framingham High School," Morris said. "We had 54 students solidly enrolled—over capacity. Nearly 90 percent of those who signed up stuck with the program through the entire semester.”

As the year ended, Morris saw more evidence of success for the program, which focuses on improving those all-important SAT scores.

"Our average score increase was 141 points and the median was 135 points," she reported. "Our highest score increase was 320 points, an impressive feat."

Morris's program outperforms the expectations of Let's Get Ready, which says on average LGR students increase their SAT scores by 110 points.

"Anna's passion, drive, intelligence, and leadership ability make her the prototype of what a Let's Get Ready Site Director should be," said Let's Get Ready supervisor Matthew Boyce. "We could not be more proud of the work she has done for our organization. Anna has taken a good program at Framingham High School and made it a great one."

2009-2010 Volunteer Coaches
Duke McMorris, freshman, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Ross Simmons, freshman, of Greer, S.C.
Kyle Ahlers, junior, of Ashland, Mass.
Juliet Barbara, senior, of Austin, Texas
Katie Blair, junior, of Medfield, Mass.
Rhea Brown, sophomore, of Unity, Wisc.
Cynthia Chen, senior, of Santa Clara, Calif.
Mingxi Dong, first-year, of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Erin Duffy, senior, of Medway, Mass.
Victoria Errickson, junior, of Miami, Fla.
Alice Fong, sophomore, of Fresh Meadows, N.Y.
Kristen Hobbs, first-year, of Salt Lake City, Utah
Dora Hui, junior, of Boston, Mass.
Zhenya Karelina, senior, of Decatur, Ga.
Charlotte Kiang, first-year, of New York, N.Y.
Christine (Heejung) Lee, junior, of Chatsworth, Calif.
Jin Ah Lee, sophomore, of Yorktown, Virg.
Shiyi Pang, first-year, of Gainesville, Fla.
Alexandra Pappas, senior, of Boston, Mass.
Marissa Parrish, sophomore, of Wildwood, Penn.
Caroline Psutka, junior, of Granby, Conn.
Ljubica Ristovska, first-year, of Kriva Palanka, Macedonia
Gina (Jinhwa) Seo, first-year, of Seoul, South Korea
Caitlin Snyder, senior, of North Plainfield, N.J.
Monet Spells, senior, of Largo, Md.
Julia Wagner, junior, of Naperville, Ill.
Christianne Wolfsen, first-year, of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
Margaret Zwiebach, sophomore, of Newton, Mass.

Morris's co-director, Kelvin Whitley, a junior at Babson College, joined the program this year to serve as a male role model for high school boys.

"I know from experience the positive influence and energy that one can realize by simply having someone to constantly guide and inspire you," he said.

Morris said the program serves students from all backgrounds but especially those who are disadvantaged or who may be the first person in their family to consider college. Along with Morris and Whitley, 20 other Wellesley and Babson volunteers have made a difference in the lives of local high school students.

The acceptance rate for college admission is 88 percent for program graduates.

"One girl who did the program for two semesters found she got into her first choice of college," Morris said. "That was really exciting to hear."

One Framingham High student recently noted the experience affected her significantly.

"Generally, I am not a strong test taker but Let's Get Ready gave me the confidence and ability to score high enough to confidently apply to some elite schools," she said. "I did LGR in the spring of my junior year and became very close with the mentors and other students in the program."

Framingham High School College advisor Benjamin Tarshis appreciates the bright new futures made possible by Let's Get Ready.

"It has been a real pleasure to work with Anna and Let's Get Ready," he said. "Let's Get Ready has been a partner with Framingham High for the past three years and I can say without a doubt that LGR has been most successful under Anna's leadership. What has really set this year's LGR program apart from years past isn't just the raw number of students that signed up for the program, but the fact that most of these 50 or so students attend 90 percent or more of the classes. The numbers are truly compelling considering the number of first generation, minority and low-income students that are part of the program. Not only does LGR increase a student's average SAT score by close to 150 points but the LGR coaches really empower the students to take control of their future and get them excited about the college process."

An economics major, Morris said her fellow volunteers also help students with college decisions and application essays. These mentors discuss types of schools, the college social scene and commuting or boarding issues.

"We start with a preliminary list of schools and what courses they should take in to be able to meet requirements," she said. The most important part of volunteering may be serving as living role models, she said, proving that the path to college is possible.

Morris draws inspiration from guidance she received at her high school, Cary Academy in North Carolina.

"A lot of people aren't given those opportunities," she said. "It's been a chance for me to have a direct impact on helping kids go to college who maybe weren't even thinking of going before."

This spring, as another incentive for student attendance, Let's Get Ready received a pledge from a North Carolina business to donate $10 to Haiti aid relief for every student who attended more than 75 percent of classes (up to $400).

"We had more than 40 students meet this mark, so we will be donating the max of $400, likely to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund," Morris said.

This summer Morris continues her volunteer work as a coach for a Boston Let's Get Ready program.

"I am really excited to get back into the teaching side of things," she said. "The classroom environment at Let's Get Ready is unlike any other."

Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an excellent liberal arts education for women who will make a difference in the world.  Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students from all 50 states and 75 countries.